If You Have an Angry Moment (or two)…

Whenever I’m feeling a bit stressed or overwhelmed with circumstances beyond my control, I recall the following Zen parable.

You are at the grand opening of a new shopping mall on the edge of town. You’ve been driving around looking for a parking space for ten minutes. At last, right in front of you, a car pulls out of a spot. You hit your turn signal and wait as the car backs out. Suddenly, from the other direction, comes a Jeep that pulls into the space. Not only that, but when you honk, the driver gets out, smirks, and gives you the finger.

Are you angry?

Now change the scene ever so slightly. Instead of a brash Jeep driver, a cow walks into the space from the other direction and settles down in the middle of it. When you honk, she looks up and moos but doesn’t budge.

Are you angry?


Source: The Cow in the Parking Lot: A Zen Approach to Overcoming Anger by Leonard Scheff and Susan Edmiston (Amazon link)

From Facts to Fiction

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Canadian author Judy Penz Sheluk sharing insights from her multi-act life and introducing her debut novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose.

Here’s Judy!


Act One: Childhood Dreams

I can remember reading Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery when I was about eight. It’s the story of Emily Starr of New Moon, Prince Edward Island, and her quest to become a writer/journalist. I remember thinking, “That’s what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a writer.”

It wasn’t outside of the realm of possibility. I was an avid reader from an early age (my main fare was Nancy Drew; in high school I graduated to Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and John D. MacDonald. I had good marks in English. I had a plan. Even better, I had a dream.

Act Two: Credit and Collections

The plan changed. Instead of going to school to study journalism, I went to work in the credit department of a major insurance company and took college night classes in business administration and accounting. I worked my way up the corporate ladder, becoming the youngest Division Credit Manager in the company’s history. I still thought about writing, emphasis on thought. I didn’t actually do any writing—unless you count composing collection letters as writing.


I didn’t stay with that insurance company (I wanted to move back to Toronto), but I did stay in the Credit and Collections field, going from company to company as the recession hit and middle management jobs were “right-sized.” I eventually landed at a company two miles from my house. The commute was great. The job was mind-numbingly boring. I started thinking about writing again.

Act Three: Creative Writing Courses

My husband, Mike, bought me a PC and enrolled me in an online Creative Writing school. I whizzed through the 20 course units. Entered and won first prize in a writing contest for beginning writers. Sold a magazine feature article for the princely sum of $75.

That’s when fate intervened. The day I received the check for $75 I received the news that my mind-numbingly boring job was being made redundant. I thought about the job-hopping over the past ten years and I knew I just couldn’t do it any longer.

Mike encouraged me to try freelance writing for a year. If I could earn something—not what I had been earning but at least enough to put food on the table—we’d look at year two.

That was May 2003. I’ve never looked back.

Act Four: Finding Fiction

My freelance writing career took off in leaps and bounds. Before long I was writing regularly for AntiqueWeek, Antique Trader, New England Antiques Journal, Antiques and Collectibles Showcase Canada. Worried I’d be pigeon-holed into writing only for the antiques market, I attended a home building conference in Toronto and landed a few freelance assignments for a handful of home building associations, including Ontario Home Builder and Home Builder Canada. I specialized in “green” building and energy efficiency. Those led to some features in other trade publications. Before long I was writing about farming innovations (I grew up in Toronto, Canada), travel in Manitoba (have never been there) and a host of other things.

In 2007, I was offered the position of Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal (www.antiquesjournal.com), a job I still have and love. In 2009, I was offered the position of Editor for Home Builder Canada (www.homebuildercanada.com). That took some thought. It would mean giving up some of the freelance work. Then again, it was a sure thing. I accepted the job and continue with it to this day. The bonus of both these gigs is that I work from home and can work my own hours. As long as the work gets done, no one cares WHEN it gets done.

Along the way, I kept taking creative writing courses, both online and in workshop format. I wrote a few short stories, mostly bad, managed to get a couple published. But there was nothing of consequence. And then on Christmas Eve, 2012, I had an ah-ha moment. If I didn’t start writing my novel, it would never get written.

Act Five

With time off between Christmas and New Year’s from all my jobs, the time was right. I started writing The Hanged Man’s Noose on Christmas Eve 2012 and wrote seven days a week until I finished the first draft a few months later. I used to joke that if I was a plumber in my day job it might have been easier. After all, at the end of the day, a plumber (or whatever the job is) looks upon writing as an escape. I went from writing to writing. And yet, The Hanged Man’s Noose was an escape. The world and the characters I created became real to me, and I couldn’t wait to revisit them.

It took the help of a developmental editor and a copyeditor, along with two beta readers to get The Hanged Man’s Noose to the point where it was worthy of sending out for publication. Yes, the editors cost me, but I looked upon the expense as another creative writing course, and the investment was worth every penny. Not only did I polish up the manuscript, I learned what to do (and not do) for the future.

It wasn’t easy, but I landed a contract with Barking Rain Press in July 2014. More editing (this time paid for by the publisher) and in July 2015, The Hanged Man’s Noose was released to the world. You can read all about my publishing journey on my blog. Simply click on the archives, select One Writer’s Journey, and the subhead My Publishing Journey. Start at the beginning, if you dare. It’s all there, the hopes, the dreams, the cheers, the tears…



Small-town secrets and subterfuge lead to murder in this fast-moving, deftly written tale of high-stakes real estate wrangling gone amok.

Journalist Emily Garland lands a plum assignment as the editor of a niche magazine based in Lount’s Landing, a small town named after a colorful 19th century Canadian traitor. As she interviews the local business owners for the magazine, Emily quickly learns that many people are unhappy with real estate mogul Garrett Stonehaven’s plans to convert an old schoolhouse into a mega-box store. At the top of that list is Arabella Carpenter, the outspoken owner of an antiques shop, who will do just about anything to preserve the integrity of the town’s historic Main Street.

But Arabella is not alone in her opposition. Before long, a vocal dissenter at a town hall meeting about the proposed project dies. A few days later, another body is discovered, and although both deaths are ruled accidental, Emily’s journalistic suspicions are aroused.

Putting her reporting skills to the ultimate test, Emily teams up with Arabella to discover the truth behind Stonehaven’s latest scheme before the murderer strikes again.

The Hanged Man’s Noose is available at all the usual suspects, including Amazon.

You can also read the first four chapters free here.

Connect with Judy

Sign up for Judy’s blog, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Sign up for Judy’s quarterly newsletter here. The next newsletter is “sometime” in mid-late November.

Find Judy on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest .

Joanne here!

Wow! I’m in awe of your diverse talents and inspiring journey. Best of luck with all your literary endeavors.

Happy Autumn!


Whenever I look out at Nature’s breathtaking fall palette, I am inspired and invigorated to start anew. Anything and everything is possible during the cool, crisp days of autumn.

Some of my favorite quotations…

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. George Eliot

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one autumnal face. John Donne

Autumn, the year’s last loveliest smile. William Cullen Bryant

Autumn, the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits. Samuel Butler

Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn. Emily Dickinson

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all. Stanley Horowitz

Autumn asks that we prepare for the future—that we be wise in the ways of garnering and keeping. But it also asks that we learn to let go—to acknowledge the beauty of sparseness. Bonaro W. Overstreet

I’ve never known anyone yet who doesn’t suffer a certain restlessness when autumn rolls around…We’re all eight years old and anything is possible. Sue Grafton

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. Albert Camus

Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn. Elizabeth Lawrence

RB’s 10 Favorite Quotes

I’m thrilled to welcome Soul Mate author R.B. Austin to the Power of 10 series. Today, RB shares her favorite quotes.


Here’s RB!

Thank you so much for hosting me, Joanne! Listed below are ten of my favorite quotes.

I love words that when pulled together cause me to think. To feel. Or want to change. Or help me realize I’m not alone this is a huge, sometimes scary, world.

I hope you, dear readers, find some inspiration to brighten or change your day.

1. Never give up…No one knows what’s going to happen next. –L. Frank Baum

2. The mind I love must have wild places. –Katherine Mansfield

3. And what is empty turns its face to us / and whispers: / “I am not empty, I am open.” Tomas Transtromer

4. Do you think that I count the days? There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk. –Jean-Paul Sartre

5. In a time of destruction, create something. –Maxine Hong Kingston

6. Is this why we love at all? To save. –From the movie “A Winters Tale”

7. For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought. –Edmund Spenser

8. Be a lamp, a lifeboat, or a ladder… -Rumi

9. We can only die in the future, I thought; right now we are always alive. –Amy Hempel

10. Your thorns are the best part of you. –Marianne Moore

fallendarkeness_500x750 (2)


The war between Apollyon and the Trihune has begun.

Lucas scours the street in need of a fix. He captures his enemy instead of kills. Spins lies instead of truth. Seeks darkness instead of light. So close to the edge with no concern for the fall.

The map was foretold. Its key long lost.

Sent on a mission to find the key necessary to defeat Apollyon, Lucas meets Kate. Fiery, powerful, unable-to-touch-any-object Kate. As his feelings for her grow, the addiction inside him wanes.

Until he learns she is not meant for him.

Find the key. Find the way and triumph.

His future with Kate is bleak. The darkness, too hard to control. The key, still lost.

Can Lucas win the battle raging inside his body in order to win the war rising on the streets?



rbaustinRB Austin enjoys torturing dogs (dressing her Cairn terrier in knitted sweaters and booties), embarrassing her daughter (singing in the car . . . at the top of her lungs . . . with the windows open . . . at a stop light), and indulging in the second deadliest sin (chocolate, Swedish fish, chocolate, sour patch watermelons, and chocolate).

This author’s love of the sun puts in her in the more-than-likely-not-a-vampire category, unless you’re referring to the bloodsuckers in her Trihune series, then all bets are off.

She likes stalkers! . . . Well, not the creepy kind. So if you’re not creepy, she’d love to meet up with you on Facebook or Twitter.

Where to find RB…

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Happy Release Day!

The Heart of the Story

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have author and fellow Sister of Suspense Marian Lanoutte/Merry Holly sharing a lifelong passion for writing.

Here’s Marian!

marian lanouetteBriefly describe your first act.

I always joked that I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. My career choices was acting or writing. But my parents made it clear from an early age, they wouldn’t pay for those kinds of degrees. Teaching or accounting was their recommendations. I figured I’d show them and turned down college for a temporary job as an office manager that lasted ten years. My father told me I’d regret the decision, but I was eighteen and headstrong.

In my first act I was busy working with no real goal. Well, my father was right. At thirty I headed back to school and got my Bachelors of Science in Accounting.

What triggered the need for change?

Believe it or not, our office was totally manual at the time. My boss (one of the greatest I ever had) suggested we take classes to learn to use computers. Our trustees mentioned they wanted to computerize the process. Well, my husband and I, and my boss and his wife signed up at a local high school in their adult education program. The course was an introduction to computers and their uses. The four of us arrived for class the first night and discovered it was cancelled for lack of interest.

Disappointed, my husband and I drove straight to the local college and signed up for a basic computer class. I loved it (I could be a professional student discovered) and decided it was time to work on my degree.


My second act was triggered by a health issue. I discovered I had severe blockages in the heart and required by-pass surgery. During the recovery period (six months) I looked through my computer and discovered all the stories I’ve written over the years, I never shared with anyone. To aid in my recovery and keep my mind sharp, I started my first novel.

After surgery the limit for a by-pass patient is eight pounds. In the scheme of life that’s not a lot of weight. Your vacuum weights around ten pounds or more to give you a comparison. My husband to ensure I didn’t lift more brought me a notebook which weighed less than two pounds.

In three months I had my first draft of If I Fail, A Jake Carrington mystery. Since then I haven’t looked back. I now have three complete novels in the series (the last one Mated for Life is in the editing process,) and several published novellas.

Where are you now?

I’m back in my accounting career and continue to write in the evenings. The accounting is a necessary evil, and the writing is a joy. I’m sorry I didn’t follow my dreams and pursue my writing earlier in life. But I’m a firm believer things happen for a reason.

Do you have advice for anyone planning to pursue a second act?

Do your research. I wrote a first draft and sent it out to every agent on the planet. Not knowing the steps to a successful novel. The book, Loss of Power, is still sitting in a drawer. A wonderful story, that I love, which needs a ton of work. If it wasn’t for a nice editor at a big publishing house and her advice, I’d still be banging my head on the wall. She suggested I join a writing group and take some online classes to learn the craft. It was the best advice I got pertaining to my writing. And it made sense. Didn’t I have to take classes to learn accounting.

Any affirmations or quotations you wish to share?

Yes, I love Stephen Kings advice in On Writing. The book is wonderful. This quote is one taken from it.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ― Stephen King

Marian’s Books

seasonofthrillsseason of surprises

Buy Links – Season of Thrills

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo | iTunes

Where to find Marian…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Joanne here!

Marian, thanks for sharing your inspiring journey. If you ever run out of story ideas, consider writing your memoirs.

Follow Your Passion!

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Tina Frisco sharing the rich and varied experiences of her multi-act life.

Here’s Tina!

tinafriscoThank you, Joanne, for hosting me on your Second Acts blog. I’m delighted and honored to be among so many talented artisans.

My ACT ONE began with knowing that I wanted to be a nurse at age five. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA, I attended parochial school for twelve years and academically pursued the fields of science and math. The nuns were excellent teachers, and by the time I graduated twelfth grade, I was well-prepared for further study in these areas.

Eager to leave the nest, I moved to New York to attend Nursing School. Back then, hospital-based schools were still in existence and proved to be far superior to college and university nursing programs. My class scored above all other programs in New York on our State Boards, including the Masters Programs. Needless to say, students and teachers alike were very pleased.

I worked as a nurse for many years in the areas of Med-Surg, Psychiatry, Hemodialysis, Family Planning, and Geriatrics. I’ve been a Staff Nurse, Charge Nurse, Assistant Director of Nursing (ADON), and Director of Staff Development (DSD). Seeking a greater challenge, I applied to the California State Department of Health Services for the position of Health Facilities Evaluator Nurse. These are the folks who visit hospitals, clinics, and home health agencies to evaluate their performance in adhering to state and federal guidelines. Since this was a civil service position, the candidate process took almost a year to complete. But it was well worth it; I not only was hired, but also was their first choice. I worked in the field of nursing until my mid-forties.

Music is also an integral part of my life. I received my first guitar at age fourteen and began writing songs and music. I emulated folksingers such as Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, Donovan, Tom Rush, and Gordon Lightfoot. Later on, Emmylou Harris, Cris Williamson, John Denver, and many others also became favorites. I performed publicly throughout high school and much of my adult life, both as a solo act and with others. I enjoy all genres of music, with the exception of some types of jazz.

In my early twenties, I became an animal rights activist. The practice of vivisection filled me with anger and disgust, especially since the poor creatures often were not given analgesics or anesthesia. Non-human animals are treated with little or no regard for their sentience, and I was compelled to advocate on their behalf. Ever since corporations assumed the larger part of the industry involving animal research as well as the care and raising of animals for food consumption, the emphasis is now placed on profits rather than concern for the quality of life. When great distance is placed between the steward and her/his charge, it becomes easy to objectify. Once I became aware of this, I began advocating for all beings and remain politically active to this day.

In my early thirties, I became apprenticed to a Medicine Woman. This catapulted me into the realm of spirit and solidly placed me on a spiritual path. Everything I now do derives from a depth within my heart, soul, and consciousness. Once consciousness is awakened, there’s no turning back. Many lessons are difficult and the path can be arduous at times, but the benefits reaped are priceless and enlightening.

In my mid-forties, I became quite ill with an immunologic disorder and was unable to continue working. Many years passed before the pain and fatigue lifted enough for me once again to become productive.

Plateau Cover 8 (2)My ACT TWO began after watching several doomsday documentaries regarding the supposed end of the Mayan Long Count Calendar on December 21, 2012. I knew from a place deep within me that the world was not going to end on this date, and I felt compelled to put forth a message of hope into the world. I published Plateau: Beyond the Trees, Beyond 2012 in July of that year. Its underlying message is that we must keep our hearts open and act from love instead of reacting from fear; we must practice gratitude and compassion within every moment and with every breath; and in so doing, we’ll help elevate the human species to a higher consciousness, facilitating both personal and global peace.

About Plateau: W’Hyani, a fifteen-year-old tribal female, lives on a sequestered plateau where her people have little or no contact with the outside world. Born strong and willful, she is the predestined Keeper of the Crystal Heart, the key to unlocking the thousands-year-old mystery of the Great Mosaic of Life. Ignorant of her role as well as the shard’s significance, she carries it in a pouch around her neck, hidden from view and kept secret as her mother instructed before she disappeared. When cosmic forces begin testing her, W’Hyani meets every challenge with firm resolve. But ultimately she comes face-to-face with herself in a battle that would shrink the will of the most intrepid warrior, unaware that the realization of her destiny will irrevocably impact all beings on earth and beyond. The Great Mosaic of Life holds a message of hope that would allow us to see and live beyond our perceived horizons.

gabbyandthequadsLast year I published my second book, Gabby and the Quads. When my niece had quadruplets, I was inspired to write a children’s book that was ethically as well as traditionally educational. For example, Gabby’s family includes two pit bulls. I explain that pit bulls are born gentle and become mean only when mistreated by humans.

About Gabby and the Quads: Gabby is an only child, and her parents are concerned about how she’ll receive four new babies into the family. They decide on a unique approach to introduce her to and help her accept this awesome experience.

I’m now writing another novel, in yet a different genre. I thought I would try my hand at writing in a genre that’s currently popular and selling well. Writing is an inherent part of who I am, and it sure would be nice to make a little money from it!

Aside from writing and music, I enjoy reading, dancing, arts and crafts, exploring nature, and getting lost in working crossword puzzles.

My advice for anyone planning to pursue a second act is the same as that which I give to aspiring authors: Follow your passion! It will lead you to your heart’s desire. And don’t be disheartened if you encounter obstacles. Give your mind a rest for a period of time. Take a walk. Listen to music. Visit with friends. You’ll be pleasantly surprised when you return to your project. Sometimes we have to take a step back in order to gain the perspective and momentum needed to move forward. And whatever you do, don’t listen to critics unless their criticism is constructive. If it is, learn from it. If it isn’t, turn a deaf ear and continue on. Above all, listen to yourself! Your intuition is your best guide.

Below are a few of my favorite quotes, the essences of which are reflected in my life’s philosophy and, thus, my writing:


“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge – myth is more potent than history – dreams are more powerful than facts – hope always triumphs over experience – laughter is the cure for grief – love is stronger than death.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

“You can also commit injustice by doing nothing.” ~Marcus Aurelius

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” ~Edmund Burke

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Take the breath of the new dawn and make it part of you. It will give you strength.” ~Hopi Nation

“Love is the bridge between you and everything.” ~ Rumi

Joanne, it has been a pleasure meeting you. Your generosity and support of artisans is much appreciated. I’m an optimist by nature and hope that gratitude, compassion, forgiveness, and love will imbue the current tenor of our social fabric – and prevail.

Walk in beauty, my friends…

Buy Links

Plateau – Amazon | Smashwords | Spangaloo | iTunes | EBook Universe

Gabby and the QuadsAmazon | Create Space

Where to find Tina…

Website | FB Author Page | FB Book Page | Amazon | Twitter | LinkedIn | Goodreads | Google+ | About Me | Authorsdb | The indiePENdents | Ask David | Google Books | Radio Interview | What Say You?

Joanne here!

Tina, thanks for sharing your inspiring journey. Best of luck with all your creative endeavors.